|First flight||9 May 1942|
|Primary users||Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana|
|Produced||September 1942 - May 1944|
|Number built||48 |
|Developed from||Reggiane Re.2000|
The Reggiane Re.2005 Sagittario (English: Archer, Sagittarius) was an Italian monoplane fighter/fighter-bomber produced for the Regia Aeronautica during the later years of World War II. It is considered by many to be "the most beautiful plane of the Second World War". Along with the Macchi C.202/C.205 and Fiat G.55, the Reggiane Re.2005 was one of the three Serie 5 Italian fighters. The well balanced lines of the fuselage were aerodynamically perfect, and everything was designed to get the most out of the famous Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine. The only drawback was a certain structural weakness in the rear section of the fuselage. Only 48 examples had been delivered before the Armistice and these fighters took part in the defence of Naples, Rome and Sicily with the final survivors battling above the crumbling ruins of Berlin, with German insignia. Well-respected ace and military observer, Group Captain Duncan Smith, DSO DFC, stated: "The Re.2005 was altogether a superb, potent aeroplane."
Design and development
The Reggiane 2005 was the last of the Reggiane aircraft line to be built during World War II. The project which started in 1941 was carried out by a team led by Roberto Longhi, and included designers Alessio, Maraschini, Toniolo and Pozzi. Preliminary work was completed before the end of the year despite being a new project, and not simply a revamping of an existing aircraft design such as the Reggiane Re.2002. The DB 605 engine was waiting to be delivered when the airframe was ready in February 1942. The resulting machine was not only rated as one of the best Axis wartime aircraft, but also one of the best, if not the best-looking. Its semi-elliptical wings, long nose and large tail were all distinctive features of this small, nimble fighter.
The prototype MM.494 first flew 9 May 1942, but the day after, a heavy landing led to an undercarriage failure which caused serious damage, and consequently it was unable to fly again until June (MM.494 was damaged two other times in tests). This prototype had four Breda 12.7 mm machine guns and one Mauser cannon and was primarily used for testing, and then for the aerial defense of Naples. After a fierce competition, in which the C.205N was quickly abandoned, and the G.55 was considered better from a production point of view (being only marginally worse as a fighter but much easier to mass produce) the Regia Aeronautica ordered the production of 750 Re.2005 aircraft. This was an optimistic figure in wartime Italy.
The Re.2005 was a low-wing, single-engine, single-seat fighter monoplane, made of light alloys. Propulsion was by a 1,475 hp (1,100 kW) Daimler Benz DB.605A-1 engine, either of original German production or built by Fiat as the RA.1050 RC.58 Tifone (Typhoon), driving a right-handed three-bladed Piaggio P.2001 constant speed, mechanically controlled variable-pitch metal propeller. The streamlined but tiny fuselage was almost totally dominated by the DB 605 engine and did not allow for fuel storage. As well, the fuselage-mounted MG 151/20 cannon had less ammunition than those mounted in the wings (150 rounds versus 170 rounds in the wing gun bays from the second prototype on). The comparable Fiat G.55 had 250 rounds for the fuselage gun, but also 600 for a 12.7 mm machine gun. The smaller Re.2005 also carried 100 less 20 mm but 100 more 12.7 mm rounds, with an overall lighter armament array. The aft fuselage was unusually small, even by Italian standards. It contained the radio equipment and oxygen bottles, and supported the relatively large vertical tail surface. The cockpit was covered by a canopy which tilted to the right for access, and had an armoured 50 mm glass windscreen. Other protection included an armoured seat incorporating an 8 mm-thick steel shell weighing 40 kg. Overall its effectiveness wasn't anything special by 1942 standards, and provided little protection against 12.7 mm rounds which were capable of piercing even 25 mm at short distances (this is with normal steel, and "short distances" aren't all that common in aerial combat). The armour used was more resistant than homogeneous steel, since it was tempered, and 8mm is nothing unusual as far as internal armor goes; lightness is important, and many shots are not 90deg hits against the armor. It's meant to improve your odds, not make you invulnerable. Given the heavy weight of a thick steel plate, every attempt was made to make the steel alloy used stronger. A headrest was attached to bulkhead six.
The sophisticated wing design, often described as elliptical, was actually semi-elliptical, with wing thickness tapering from 15% at the root to 8% at the tip. The structure of the three spars incorporated a "T" section. The triangular-shaped wing and tail control surfaces were mostly fabric-covered, and included all-metal two-part split flaps, and statically balanced ailerons. Fuel was carried in four self-sealing wing tanks, two forward and two behind, providing a capacity of 525 litres. The undercarriage included "wide-stance" main gear retracting outwards into the wings, and a fully retractable tail wheel. The Re.2005 was the only Italian aircraft of the war to have hydraulically activated flaps.
It was one of the most advanced Italian fighters but it was also too advanced to be made by the Italian industry, and one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive to produce. Its complex design and small dimensions led to its contemporary, the Fiat G.55, being evaluated as a superior choice for mass production.
The first pilot to use the Re. 2005 for operational duty was Maggiore Vittorio Minguzzi, commander of 22o Gruppo. The unit was based at Napoli-Capodichino airfield for the defense of the city. Minguzzi received the prototype of the Re.2005 (MM.494) — after flight test evaluations in Guidonia — and made the first flight with this aircraft on 7 March 1943. He and the most able pilots in the Gruppo flew this prototype until 23 March and they all had a very favourable and enthusiastic impression of it. He then took it to Napoli-Capodichino where it was incorporated into 362a Squadriglia. This unit – commanded by Capitano Germano La Ferla – was the first to be equipped with the Re.2005.
Minguzzi scrambled for the first time in the Sagittario on 24 March, when Naples was attacked and on 2 April he claimed a four-engined B-24 Liberator bomber over the Isle of Ischia. This claim is not verified against corresponding USAAF losses. Italian ace Vittorio Minguzzi was impressed by this aircraft following its tests and combat debut on 2 April 1943. He wrote:
The aircraft is in ideal flying conditions at an altitude of 7,000–7,500 meters and can make repeated attacks on American heavy bombers in all positions and from all directions... I can therefore say that the speed and handling qualities are excellent even at 7,000 meters and that compared to the Macchi 202, the Sagittario made two attacks in the time required by the Macchi C.202 for a single pass.
This statement provides a realistic comparison between the two aircraft: in terms of theoretical speed, the Macchi C.202 was only 30 km/h slower, but the Re.2005's DB-605, coupled with its larger wing, provided a substantial improvement in performance at high altitude (the difference was less marked at medium-to-low altitudes, as the comparison with the C.205V showed). During April, 362a Squadriglia received three more Re.2005s from the 0-serie, however, the number of Re.2005s in the 22o Gruppo never exceeded eight.
The first confirmed air victories came on 28 April. That day, four Re.2005s from 22o Gruppo scrambled (with MC.202s and one Dewoitine D.520) from Capodichino to intercept a formation of 30 B-24s Liberators, escorted by 30 fighters, which were out to bomb Naples. The Re.2005s were flown by Maggiore Minguzzi, Capitano La Ferla, Tenente Giulio Torresi and Sergente Donati. The 22o Gruppo claimed one B-24 (by Minguzzi) and four probables (one was later confirmed by ground observer and credited to Donati). Ten more were claimed as shared damaged by the whole Gruppo.
Then, several more aircraft arrived at the same squadron, 362 ima Squadriglia, and in the following weeks, this unit displayed a lot more potency than C.202 units, claiming several bombers for the loss of a pair of Re.2005s. By 25 June 1943, Reggiane Re.2005 pilots claimed a total of seven B-24s and many others damaged. However, losses claimed seldom matched true losses (see for example Macchi C.205, about the Battle of Capo Pula on 2 August when none of the 12 P-38 Lightnings claimed was actually lost by the USAAF). At least one Reggiane was shot down as well, the MM.092343 of Lt. Moresi. On 2 July 1943, 362ma was sent to Sicily to face the imminent invasion and were involved in combat with Spitfires, claiming on 11–14 July to shoot down five of them (two were confirmed kills; a reconnaissance Spitfire and another downed in a strafing attack over Comiso). Spitfires were tough opponents (even if many were only Mk Vs), with two Re.2005s destroyed as well (11 July) and the rest bombed or strafed on the ground. Only two aircraft returned to Sicily. One example was captured by the United States Army Air Forces and sent to the USA. Little is known of this aircraft which vanished in the postwar period. While German and some Japanese aircraft were extensively tested, the few captured Italian aircraft (another example and still in existence, is a captured Macchi C.202) were not known to be tested, so detailed information about them and their flight characteristics is scarce. The Re.2005 climbed almost as well as the Bf 109G-14 and turned almost as well as the Spitfire Mk IX, having a turn radius of 639 ft (195 m) without full flaps and 487 ft (148 m) with full flaps. German tests at the Rechlin test center concluded that the aircraft "curved well, rolled like the Bf 109 G-4 with rudder forces a little less". In the meantime, another 10 fighters joined 362ma but when one was damaged in a steep dive on 21 August 1943, some concern was raised. On 25 August, MM.092356 (Lt Dario Signorini bailed out) was lost during another dive and so further flights were discontinued. It was discovered that at speeds over 660 km/h TAS, every manoeuvre could adversely affect the flight control in the tail, and then cause damage to the fuselage from flutter being set up. Subsequently, Re.2005 pilots were forbidden from attaining very high speeds (VNE 800 km/h), however, by that time, operations were winding down as the Armistice was taking effect. However, in July 1943 trials, Cmdr. de Prato achieved a speed of 980 km/h in a dive with no loss of control, and experienced no flutter problems. The production Fiat R.A. 1050 Tifone engines, licensed produced DB 605s, were limited to 2,650 rpm instead of the usual 2,800 rpm with a corresponding drop in power from 1,475 hp (1,100 kW) to 1,350 hp (1,010 kW). The MM.494 prototype fitted with a DB 605 had a recorded speed of 678 km/h when flown fully equipped. However, this speed was attained by levelling the aircraft after a dive. The official maximum speed was 628.5 km/h at an altitude of 6,950 m. The Re.2005 had good handling in close dogfight actions and, according to General Minguzzi, who flew both the Re.2005 and the Spitfire, the Re. 2005 was even better than the Spitfire in tight turns and handling.. Grp Cpt. Duncan Smith, DSO DFCA, a British fighter pilot and fighter leader of World War II, greatly respected the Re.2005:
The Re.2005 'Sagittario' was a potent aircraft. Having had a dog-fight with one of them, I am convinced we would have been hard pressed to cope in our Spitfires operationally, if the Italians or Germans had had a few Squadrons equipped with these aircraft at the beginning of the Sicily campaign or in operations from Malta. Fast, and with excellent manoeuvrability, the Re.2005 was altogether a superb aeroplane. Neither the Macchi 205 nor the Bf 109G measured up to the capabilities of the Re.2005 series in manoeuvrability or rate of climb. I think it was easily the best aircraft Italy produced. It is a pity that no Re.2001/5s survive this day because they were fine examples of Italian engineering craftsmanship.
One of the few examples of combat reports, dated 11 July 1943, seems to contradict Minguzzi's statement, when together with other Italian fighters, Eugenio Salvi's Re.2005 fought against Spitfires over Sicily. A Spitfire Mk V latched onto the tail of Salvi's Re.2500. Salvi tried all the tricks he knew: dives, tight turns, climbs, but the Spitfire remained steadily attached to his tail following every move, and then opened fire. Salvi's Re.2005 was struck by many bullets, and Salvi was sure he was going to be killed when the Spitfire just as suddenly vanished, possibly out of ammunition. Fuel levels and pilots skill probably were the deciding factor in this incident.
On 25 August de Prato carried out test dives at Guidonia. He then flew the aircraft back to Reggio Emilia where three more dives were made on 27, 29 and 31 August. According to De Prato's account, the tests concluded that the "shaking" began at 660 km/h true air speed and that they were caused by inadequate dynamic balancing of the empennage, the balance likely lost during full excursion rudder maneuvers performed during dives. After correcting the balancing, de Prato dived the aircraft to 980 km/h TAS (610 mph), convincing himself that the structure of the Re.2005 was fully capable of pulling high g's. De Prato wrote, "Our pilots were used to small rudder control surfaces, such those of Macchis and Messerschmitts; with such aircraft full excursion rudder movements were not a problem."
When the armistice was signed, on 8 September 1943, some of the few surviving Re.2005s were destroyed by their pilots to prevent them from falling into German hands. Six aircraft were however used as trainers by the ANR (Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana, the air force of the German allied Italian Social Republic). Approximately 13 Re.2005s were seized by Germany. Some sources maintain that these airplanes were used late in 1943 by the Luftwaffe for air defense against Allied bombing raids over Berlin while others believe that the Re.2005s were used by the Germans in Romania as interceptor over the Ploiești oil fields. Other research indicates that the aircraft probably never left Italy. On 18 March 1944, three aircraft of the Luftdienst Kommando Italien (M.M.096100, 096106, 096110) were severely damaged at Maniago by an U.S. air raid, while at least three others suffered accidents at Maniago (096108: 16 March 1944, 096100: 1 June 1944) and Airasca (19 April 1944) and were returned to Reggiane for repairs. As late as 31 July 1944, five Re.2005 were listed in service with the Flieger Ziel Staffel 20, which operated them from June to December 1944.
Sweden was interested in the Re.2005 (already producing the DB-605 under licence) but the order for 50 airframes was never finalized. Total production included two prototypes used as preproduction aircraft which later saw combat service, 48 series production, three prototypes sent to the Luftwaffe for evaluation, and one evaluation aircraft at the factory.
Concepts and advanced projects
A request by the German Ministry of Aviation led to one Re.2005 (MM.495), known as the Reggiane Re.2005 "LW", to be modified to German standards for tests in late July 1943. It was evaluated first in Guidonia and later at the Rechlin airfield. Tests revealed improved performances with speeds of up to 628 km/h (390.4 mph) with the FIAT engine and more than 650 km/h (400 mph) with the DB engine in level flight, without using war emergency power.
A prototype of the follow-on Re.2006 was almost completed before September 1943 but not flown. It was to use the DB 603 engine with 1,750 hp (1,300 kW) and had an estimated maximum speed of 740 km/h (462 mph). Only the G.56 was flown with this engine. A twin-fuselage version and a motorjet variant, the R.2005R were considered.
On the R.2005R, speed could have been increased to 750 km/h (466 mph), but fuel consumption would have reached nearly 1,000 l/h, almost four times the normal Re.2005's fuel usage at full throttle. This aircraft project wasn't considered as a serious alternative to the Re.2006.
- Nazi Germany
- Luftwaffe operated captured aircraft.
- Kingdom of Italy
- Crew: 1
- Length: 873 cm (28 ft 7.7 in) ()
- Wingspan: 1,100 cm (36 ft 1.1 in) ()
- Height: 315 cm (10 ft 4.0 in) ()
- Wing area: 20.4 m2 (219.6 sq ft) ()
- Empty weight: 2,600 kg (5,730 lb) ()
- Loaded weight: 3,610 kg (7,960 lb) ()
- Powerplant: 1 × Fiat R.A. 1050 RC 58 Tifone, (license built DB 605A-1), 1,475 PS (1,085 kW; 1,455 hp) ()
- Never exceed speed: 980 km/h (609 mph)
- Maximum speed:
- 628 km/h (390 mph) at 6,950 m (22,800 ft)
- Cruise speed: 515 km/h (320 mph)
- Stall speed: 155 km/h (96 mph) ()
- Range: 980 km (610 mi) on internal fuel ((1,130 km (700 mi) w/ 300 L drop tank; 1,270 km (790 mi) w/ 300 L + 2 × 150 L drop tanks))
- Service ceiling: 11,500 m (37,700 ft) ()
- Rate of climb: 20 m/s (3,900 ft/min) (6,000 m in 6.5 min) (6,000 m in 6.5 min)
- Wing loading: max. 177 kg/m2 (36.25 lb/sq ft) ()
- Underfuselage (non standard) hardpoint 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) bomb or 1 × 300 L (79.3 US gal) drop tank
- Hardpoints on wings: 160 kilograms (350 lb) bombs or 2 × 150 litres (39.6 US gal) drop tanks
- Reggiane Re.2000
- Reggiane Re.2001
- Reggiane Re.2002
- Reggiane Re.2006
- Reggiane Re.2007
- Reggiane Re.2008
- Fiat G.55
- Macchi C.205
- Messerschmitt Bf 109G
- North American P-51 Mustang
- List of aircraft of World War II
- List of aircraft of Italy in World War II
- Taylor 1969, p. 223.
- Matricardi 2006, p. 73.
- Angelucci and Matricardi 1978, p. 236.
- Mondey 1996, p. 234.
- Smith 1981
- Sgarlato 2005
- Arena 1994, p. 18.
- RE2005 in action
- Gustavsson, Håkan. "Generale S.A. Vittorio Minguzzi." Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War, 10 July 2005. Retrieved: 23 September 2009.
- "RE2005 in action." Reggiane into Aces High. Retrieved: 23 September 2009.
- Sgarlato, Nico. "Il B-24 del ten. Moresi". Aerei nella Storia Magazine, West-ward editions, Parma, pp. 22–24. ISSN 1591-1071.
- Angelucci and Matricardi 1978, p. 237.
- Alegi 2001
- Buscaglia, M. "RE2005 in action." Reggiane into Aces High . Retrieved: 1 July 2010.
- Gregory Alegi, Reggiane RE 2005. Ali d'Italia. 2001. Turin.
- Alegi, Gregory. Ali d'Italia 16: Reggiane Re 2005(in Italian/English). Turin, Italy: La Bancarella Aeronautica, 2001. ISBN unknown.
- Angelucci, Enzo and Paolo Matricardi. World Aircraft: World War II, Volume I (Sampson Low Guides). Maidenhead, UK: Sampson Low, 1978.
- Brindley, John F. "Caproni Reggiane Re 2001 Falco II, Re 2002 Ariete & Re 2005 Sagittario". Aircraft in Profile, Volume 13. Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile publications Ltd., 1973, pp. 217–241. ISBN 0-85383-022-3.
- Di Terlizzi, Maurizio. Reggiane Re 2005 Sagittario, Aviolibri 4 (in Italian). Rome, Italy: IBN Editore, 2001. ISBN 88-86815-38-7.
- Govi, S. Dal Re.2002 al Re.2005 (in Italian). Milan, Italy: Giorgio Apostolo Editore (GAE), 1984.
- Matricardi, Paolo. Aerei militari: Caccia e Ricognitori Volume 1(in Italian). Milano Mondadori Electa, 2006.
- Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. London: Bounty Books, 2006. ISBN 0-7537-1460-4.
- Punka, George. Reggiane Fighters in Action, Aircraft number 177. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-89747-430-9.
- Sgarlato, Nico. "Reggiane: i Caccia Italiani più Belli ("Reggiane: the Best Looking Italian Fighters) (in Italian)." I Grandi Aerei Storici, N. 17, July 2005. Delta Editrice. ISSN 1736-0636. Note: This source includes all the Reggiane fighters, included projected versions.
- Smith, G/C Duncan, W.G.G., DSO DFC RAF(Ret). Spitfire into Battle. Feltham, Middlesex, UK: Hamlyn Paperbacks, 1981. ISBN 0-7195-3831-9.
- Taylor, John W. R. "Reggiane Re.2005 Sagittario (Archer)". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
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